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Dec 17, 2023
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Bechdel test

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Relative usage over time

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Verbing the noun

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AWADmail Issue 1120

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

Sponsor’s Message: “A horribly fun party card game.” The wicked smartest gift for know-it-alls and teenagers. Wise Up!

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

Quebec’s ‘Language Police’ Take Aim at Sneaky English Slang
The Wall Street Journal

How Africans Are Changing French -- One Joke, Rap, and Book at a Time
The New York Times

Words in Progress: Notes From a Retired Copy Chief
Kirkus Reviews

From: Anu Garg (words wordsmith.org)
Subject: Eponyms

What eponyms have you coined after someone around you? I asked our readers and eponyms poured in. Read on for a selection.

My sister, anxious to complete her table clearing task, used to remove food before all were finished. Using her nickname, we called this, “Pulling a Lewi.” Decades later, she still sometimes does this!
-Anita Tourigny, Seattle, Washington (anitamt2000 yahoo.com)

Befitting Taylor Swift’s status as the finest pop songsmith working today, her name might be used to give praise to a songwriter, as in “That’s a well-taylored song.”
-Warrick Harniess, Orinda, California (warrick.harniess gmail.com)

One that used to be used in Australia, but rare now, was “herbing along” (running fast), from the runner Herb Elliott. More broadly speaking, eponyms are a curse to medical students. A common oral exam question based on the names of various tests/procedures/diseases in my time was “Who was ...?” We sometimes took a punt based on the sound of the name and the specialty, for example: “A distinguished French surgeon of the 19th century.” Sometimes with embarrassing results.
-Margaret Furness, Strathalbyn, Australia (mfu19130 bigpond.net.au)

Unhappily, the unwelcome name that comes to mind is one that already makes us wince when spoken in polite company: Trump. I’m afraid that, for decades if not centuries to come, “Trumpian” will be used to describe a despicable, untrustworthy, power-mad narcissist. I pray that we will not have to speak it in whispers.
-John Brownson, Albany, California (jhb johnbrownson.net)

In his Journal, Thoreau renders the noise made by a bullfrog as “trump.” It fits perfectly, and should in time become an eponym. For occurrences, see the index to the edition of Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen, s.v. “Bullfrog...trump of.”
-Steve Wailes, Bloomington, Indiana (stephenwailes8 gmail.com)

Of course, there’s a Karen -- a self-important, bigoted woman.
-Paul Norton, New Hope, Minnesota (mullover2 gmail.com)

We had a neighbor who always went back to her door several times to make sure she had locked it. So when I check, re-check and double-check, I’m doing a Miriam.
-Elizabeth Hannan, Tellico Plains, Tennessee (skywayliz gmail.com)

We have a friend named Michelle who’s habitually late. Our circle of friends is all very understanding of this, because she’s in a demanding health-care profession, mothers a special-needs child, and has anxiety issues of her own. Nonetheless, when anyone else in the group is also late (and Michelle herself hasn’t shown up yet to overhear us), we say of the other person that “she’s pulling a Michelle.”
-Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin (RichardSRussell tds.net)

There was an Uncle Burl in the family who would drive for hours to show up unexpectedly at someone’s house, only to leave 20 minutes later to return home. So we got to referring to anyone who visited only for a short time or who left early as “pulling an Uncle Burl”.
-Sue Uhl, Indianapolis, Indiana (suhl6 icloud.com)

In 2007 I was fired from my state government job (for being transgender) by a man named Sewell R. Brumby. I sued, and my attorney joked that Sewell R. Brumby sounded like the name of a villain in a Dickens novel.
Fortunately, we won our case, so no one else in Georgia will ever be Brumbied.
-Vandy Beth Glenn, Decatur, Georgia (vandy.beth.glenn gmail.com)

Cruz: A vacation at an inopportune time, particularly when you are expected and needed to stay and take care of a situation. “I treated myself to a Cancún pleasure cruz during the flooding.”
-Andy Vetromile, Marietta, Georgia (fnordy1 yahoo.com)

I used to have a co-worker who was always arriving at work mere moments before the commencement of her shift, one Jean Gancarcik. She would dash to the timeclock hoping to punch in before she was officially tardy. Thus whenever someone came in late we said that they were pulling a Gancarcik.
-Tom Furgas, Youngstown, Ohio (tofu4879 gmail.com)

Our friend, Virginia, inevitably left an event midway or at intermission. Thus our shorthand is now - in almost any situation- “Should we pull a Virginia?”
-Anne Lauriat, Waltham, Massachusetts (lauriat aol.com)

A friend, whose last name was Furuya, could tell whether or not a container was the right size to hold something. So in our household when we are putting away leftover food, or pouring the remaining milk into a smaller container to put the larger bottle out for the next delivery, one of us will often say things like “You Furuya-ed that pretty well,” or “I didn’t quite Furuya that.”
-Allan Harvey, Boulder, Colorado (allan.harvey nist.gov)

For several decades, myself, family and friends were subjected to what we came to term The Bill Fraser Question, essentially a rhetorical query, i.e. one whose expected answer was couched in the nature of the question, e.g. “You don’t really want to eat Chinese food tonight, do you?”
Or “You really didn’t like that movie, did you?” or “Do you really think that’s the shortest route to Walla Walla?”
Even when his tendency to frame questions to his own expectations was pointed out, my friend Bill (now likely herding stars in some well-chosen galaxy) studiously ignored such criticism. But he did leave to each of us the ability to catch ourselves and others when caught delivering a “Bill Fraser Question” e.g., “You don’t really enjoy reading Wordsmith, do you?”
-Dave Campbell, Dayton, Washington (museumofdave gmail.com)

I suggest Ingersoll, as for example, “Her/his words were Ingersollian.” This would denote a speech judged to be poetic, profound, bold, wise and original, among other admirable qualities.
-Donald B. Ardell, Gulfport, Florida (awr.realwellness gmail.com)

My fabulous husband Andrew (Drew), rather than using scissors, rips open bags of chips, crackers, cookies etc. so that there’s a gaping hole in the side of the bag. You can’t clip it or use a rubber band to close it. I can’t be angry when I think of our family descriptive name for it: He Drewed it.
-Frances Boninti, Ivy, Virginia (fboninti gmail.com)

Do a Tommy. Tommy Van was a school-age boy in the neighborhood who wasn’t quick to catch on to teasing by other children. The kids would mock him or insult him and he would blink his eyes as the remark went over his head. Eventually the others stopped teasing him because he wouldn’t react. Maybe doing a Tommy would lead to a more peaceful world.
-Irene R. Garcia, Simi Valley, California (iregarcia2 yahoo.com)

I don’t know whose current name is eponym-worthy, but it would be lovely if we could remove the word “trump” from the game of bridge. It’s repellent to have to use that term as the top suit when every mention of the word brings to mind the past-president-who-would-be-dictator.
-Susan Weinstock, Montclair, New Jersey (sweinstock75 gmail.com)

From: Gene England (GREngland63 aol.com)
Subject: Gavroche

To Gavroche from Les Mis, I would add Eponine as an eponym, especially as she is evoked in the musical adaptation, suffering in silence while a love interest is fixed on another.

Gene England, Terre Haute, Indiana

From: Bob Richmond (rsrichmond gmail.com)
Subject: Gavroche

I found Gavroche as the name of expensive foo-foo French restaurants round the globe, and for numerous luxury goods, notably by super-expensive French fashion house Hermès, home of the $130 necktie. The word drips with irony.

Bob Richmond, Maryville, Tennessee

From: Pascal Pagnoux (pascal.pagnoux gmail.com)
Subject: Freedom

You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power -- he’s free again. -Alexander Solzhenitsyn, novelist, Nobel laureate (11 Dec 1918-2008)

Also beautifully and succinctly expressed by Kris Kristofferson in his song Me and Bobby McGee: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Pascal Pagnoux, Saint Gaudens, France

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by LACRAWESOME -- Explore our wit you can wear >

From: Anne Geyer (atgeyer gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Bechdel test

On Jan 20, 2021, during the presidential inauguration, Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath of office to Vice President Kamala Harris. Columnists noted that it was the first inauguration to pass the Bechdel test.

Anne Geyer, Chicago, Illinois

From: Aidan Tolhurst (atolhurst honywoodschool.com)
Subject: Bechdel test

There’s the Sεxy Lamp test:

named after the writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s test about the value of a drama’s female character. (If you can replace them with a lamp and the plot still works, it fails the test.)
The Guardian, Dec 13, 2023

Aidan Tolhurst, Colchester, UK

From: Karol Silverstein (karolinas aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Bechdel test

There is also the Fries test for disability representation, coined by author Kenny Fries, which asks the following of a work of fiction:

  • to have more than one disabled character;
  • the disabled characters need to have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character;
  • the characters’ disability should not be eradicated either by curing or killing.
    (Source: Wikipedia)

Karol Silverstein, West Hollywood, California

From: April Greene (aprilswopegreene gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Bechdel test

I have another test to mention, in the vein of the Bechdel-Wallace. My friend Tracy Sayre, co-founder of the Women’s Weekend Film Challenge (now known as Moonshot Initiative), devised the Sayre Score: a tally of how many women are involved in the production of a film (whereas the Bechdel basically tests the script only): as director, producer, composer or music scorer, editor, lighting or sound technician, casting agent, location scout, etc. Once you start gauging films in this way, it’s difficult to stop (and depressing... but getting better!).

April Greene, Brooklyn, New York

From: Diana Waldron (pheasance gmail.com)
Subject: Bechdel test

Our dogs have run with this idea and now complain that my wife and I never watch anything that passes The Barkdel test, that is, that has two or more named canine characters who discuss something other than humans. They do have a point!

Diana Leigh Waldron, Jacksonville, Florida

From: Joseph Cree Taylor (Gojoe51540 msn.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Bechdel test

Women and men are essential for survival but only men are able to face and deal with the harsh threats of the natural world.

Joseph Cree Taylor, Pollock Pines, California

Whoa, sounds like your time machine got stuck in the medieval era! Just so you know, we’re now in the 21st century where everyone, regardless of gender, can slay dragons and conquer mountains. It’s not perfect by any means, but much better than in the past.
-Anu Garg

From: Alexandra Kriz (marchhare pobox.com)
Subject: chimerize

I would like to propose a synonym for chimerize: platypize, after a real-life animal that is clearly assembled from leftover parts of a waterfowl and an industrious rodent.

Alexandra Kriz, Minneapolis, Minnesota

From: Pascal Pagnoux (pascal.pagnoux gmail.com)
Subject: grangousier

Grand-gousier, in XVIIth century French, was also the name of the pelican, because of its large throat pouch. The French discovered it in La Guadeloupe when they colonized that island of the lesser Antilles in 1635 and named Le Gosier - now one of the main districts of its capital Pointe-à-Pitre - after it.

Pascal Pagnoux, Saint Gaudens, France

From: Erik Blank (erik.blank gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lexiphanic

You wrote: “Lexiphanes is also a genus of leaf beetles. It’s not known what these beetles talk about when they use their fancy long words.”

Wild guess here... fronds and folioles, but never just leaves.

Erik Blank, Redondo Beach, California

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: chimerize and gavroche

Taking a page out of the book of Greek mythology, the half-eagle/half-lion creature, the griffin (aka gryphon), came to mind. A genuine freak-of-nature, these Frankenbeasties were renowned for guarding treasure. In ancient Persian lore, the griffin was called a shirdal, meaning lion-eagle. The Sumerians, Assyrians, Indians, Cretans and Egyptians also had their own versions of this mythical winged creature.

The Little Match Girl
Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl may not fit the pure definition of gavroche, as she has parents and a home, be it an impoverished one. Yet, she isn’t in much better shape than a street urchin, desperate to sell her wares (wooden matches), exposed to the harsh winter elements and often falling into hallucinatory states. In this scenario, as Andersen’s short-story goes, a floating Christmas tree materializes before her, bedecked with dazzling ornaments... a tiny respite of joy in the ill-fated gamin’s life.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Eponyms
1. Gavroche
2. Bechdel test
3. Chimerize
4. Grangousier
5. Lexiphanic
= 1. Street child
2. Zero women in scenes?
3. Make mix
4. Piggy eater
5. Such high speech - a bore liveth!
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

= 1. Bet he is urchin
2. Analyzes women’s veracities
3. Heck 2 spεrm meet 1 egg
4. Hog
5. Chide the prolix
= 1. Cheeky guttersnipe
2. 2 & more ladies
3. Melting pot
4. Hm... cherish chow in excess
5. Verbiage haze
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.



When a boy is cast out, he may thrive
On the streets -- with some cunning and drive.
Wily cynic and knave,
A gavroche, he’ll be brave,
And will do what he must to survive.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

As a gavroche, young Oliver Twist
Did in various street crimes assist.
And when he was caught,
It all came to naught.
He received a mere slap on the wrist.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Have pity upon a gavroche,
An urchin in want of a wash.
Just give him some bread,
To see that he’s fed,
For he is in need of a nosh.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I was once a poor little gavroche;
OK no, about that I just josh,”
Donald laughed. “But from boys
At my school I stole toys,
Though in money my dad was awash.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Bechdel test

Would my narrative pass? I think not.
By the Bechdel test, I am a blot.
I think women sublime --
Not to do so’s a crime --
But they’re hardly germane to my plot.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

Her use of the Bechdel test means
She’ll analyze various scenes.
Has it happened again?
Are they focused on men?
How sexist the films that she screens!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

It would meet the strict Bechdel test if
Someone dug up a hieroglyph
And translating it, saw
Two mothers-in law
In a no-holds-barred, claw-fingered tiff!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

From now on, on Anu’s Bechdel test,
I am worried my poor neck’ll rest.
Must I always be woke,
With two women per joke?
No more laughs at a good schmeckel jest?
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Donkeys chimerize, mating with mares,
But their mules cannot have such affairs.
They’re infertile, you see,
So, no making whoopee.
(Do the donkeys take mares unawares?)
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

Take some beef and a veggie or two,
Add an onion and then make a roux.
Let them simmer a while.
(It doesn’t take guile.)
And they’re chimerized into a stew.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Isaac’s old now, and has dimmer eyes,
So your hands, Jacob, let’s chimerize,”
Said Rebekah. “We’ll pull
Off this trick with goat wool.”
“Mom, he knows Esau has trimmer thighs.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


A grangousier, trusting of mind,
Is disposed to believe, you will find.
If deceit is your game,
You may gull him -- for shame!
On the plus side it helps one unwind.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

A grangousier friend I won’t name
Is so gullible. It’s just a shame.
I told him to write
Some lim’ricks last night:
“lt would bring you great wealth and much fame.”
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

That grangousier loves a good meal,
And buffets have a special appeal.
“They have choices galore
Of those foods I adore --
And what’s more, they’re a really sweet deal!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

It seems like the older I am
The greater grangousier -- wham!
You can spin me a story
All tall tale and glory
And I’ll beg you “More, please, sir (or ma’am)!”
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Said Donald, “I should have been choosier;
I thought Pence was the perfect grangousier.
On Jan 6, unlike Rudy,
The jεrk did his duty;
Oh why did I pick that damnεd Hoosier?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The obscurantist, just for a lark,
Likes to keep other folks in the dark.
To this end he’s abstruse;
Lexiphanic misuse
Employs words never heard since the ark.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

When I’m searching for words, I might panic
And become just a little bit manic
Using words that are alien
And sesquipedalian.
But I’m not, no I’m NOT lexiphanic!
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

If you’re quite lexiphanic, of course
This website can serve as your source.
For new words to learn,
To Anu you’ll turn --
The man language lovers endorse!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

My date’s lexiphanic vocab
Had me run for the first taxicab.
What jargon! No letup --
It had me so het up
I think my ears still bear a scab!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

A fellow aboard the Titanic,
Was known to be quite lexiphanic.
He asked in distress,
“Which way to egress?”
No one knew what he said, in the panic.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

When Anu gets too lexiphanic,
As a limerick writer, I panic.
And how can I pun?
He’s Attila the Hun
As a Wordsmith -- yea, even satanic!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“I gavroche a talkin’ to ‘bout his politics, Pa, but it don’t seem to have helped none,” said Ma Limbaugh.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“With just one look at Chimerize made me cry out ‘Stella!’” said Marlon Brando.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“As the flock’s new Most Exalted High Grandgousier job is to lead us safely south for the winter,” honked the high priestess.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

In Rome, Carlo had the title of Grandgousier for pinching all the lady tourists.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“My immediate ref-lexiphanic-araguan or Guatemalan family arrives at the border is to snatch the children and send the adults packing,” the immigration officer assured Donald.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: “It might have been!” -John Greenleaf Whittier, poet (17 Dec 1807-1892)

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